2020 will certainly be recorded as a difficult year in human history. In the United States, it has been marked by the global pandemic, as well as massive fires, the presidential election and the decennial Census.
Every 10 years, the government attempts to count the country’s entire population. This informs how public resources are distributed and how communities are represented in Congress. A bad count can result in a lack of resources and a lack of political representation for certain communities…for the next 10 years.
Last summer, Enlace began working hard to ensure an accurate count of our community. A Census Coordinator and eight Census Promoters began knocking doors to inform community members about the importance of the Census, how to fill it out, and when they should expect to receive official correspondence. However, when the stay-at-home order began in March, their work became limited to spreading information mainly through social media platforms.
Katiria Díaz, Census Coordinator, talked to us about this experience. “We have to consider that we are in the middle of a pandemic and many people have other priorities, such as illnesses, lack of work...It is difficult to talk about a benefit that is not tangible in the short term, especially when people are so heavily impacted by COVID-19."
The Enlace team found safe ways to help community members fill out the Census by taking advantage of the ability to use outdoor spaces during warmer months. “We attended food pantries in the community, such as Pan de Vida through Nueva Vida. We went to parks and to mask distribution and back-to-school events…We also held two Tama-Censo events, giving away tamales after people completed the census,” shared Katiria.
Due to the difficulty of doing in-person outreach during the pandemic, the deadline for completing the Census questionnaire was extended to October 31. However, about a month ago, the current administration changed the date to September 30, arguing that the results should be presented to Congress on December 31.
At the beginning of last week, Lucy Koh, a federal judge in California, temporarily blocked the current administration from closing the questionnaire on September 30, arguing that this would hurt the accuracy of the count. Her action will allow the collection of Census questionnaires to continue through mail, internet and phone until October 31. This extension is especially important in areas with low participation.
However, on Friday night, the administration responded by filing an appeal to immediately suspend Judge Koh's order. They argued that, by law, the results of the census must be presented to Congress on December 31. For this reason, Judge Koh has also recommended an extension of that deadline.
According to current figures, the Census auto-response rate is 66.3% nationwide, slightly lower than the 2010 rate of 66.5%. Census tracts across Little Village are registering an auto-response rate of about 40%. Katiria informed us that, "in 2010, most tracts were over 50%." These are good indications that people need more time to complete the questionnaire.
The Census questionnaire includes fewer than 10 questions, takes only about 10 minutes to fill out and directly impacts actions that will be taken over the next 10 years. The information that you share is confidential. Check out the link – https://my2020census.gov/ – to see the types of questions that are included. If you feel inspired, fill it out!